Grilled Cheese Truck to roll out in early October in Los Angeles
Capitalizing on the success of two hot food trends -- nouveau food trucks and gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches-- Danhi plans to launch the Grilled Cheese Truck in early October, provided the permitting and inspection process runs smoothly.
For its initial rollout, the Grilled Cheese Truck will feature a menu of four to five standard sandwiches, including a plain grilled cheese sandwich on your choice of wheat or white bread; a caprese made with heirloom tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil; and a California melt made with smoked turkey, avocado, bacon, tomato, Monterey jack and cheddar. There will also be a specialty sandwich of the week (perhaps a triple-cream brie with brown-buttered apples and sage on walnut-raisin bread) and one or two dessert sandwiches (perhaps vanilla-poached apricots with mascarpone or goat cheese). Sides will include fresh tomato soup, house-made sweet-and-spicy pickles and either tater tots or fries (he's taking votes via Twitter). The menu is still in flux. He's trying to keep the price point for every item under five dollars and may serve the specialty sandwiches as sliders.
Perhaps the most unlikely aspect of the Grilled Cheese Truck's gooey road to fruition is that the man who started it admits he's never much cared for grilled cheese.
Danhi, however, is unremitting in his ardor for bacon, barbecue and anything related to barbecue. Prior to hurting his back 10 1/2 years ago, Danhi worked as a chef at the Roxbury, at Georgia (a high-end Southern restaurant that was once on Melrose), at Habana in Costa Mesa and at Water Grill before Michael Cimarusti came on board.
"I did a mac and cheese at Georgia, and I loved dragging it through the barbecue sauce on my plate. I wondered why no one had ever done a grilled cheese mac 'n' cheese sandwich," he says.
He came up with a Cheesy Mac & Ribs sandwich that requires cooking a mac 'n cheese, letting it cool, cutting it into slices, adding sliced cheese, onions and smoked rib meat then tucking all of it between bread.
Danhi entered his creation in the Grilled Cheese Invitational. It didn't win, but he couldn't fail to notice the throngs of grilled cheese junkies. "There was a line five people deep and a mile wide and it stayed that way for three hours. I realized that there is a fanatical culture for this."
Shortly after, he made a version of this sandwich (minus the ribs) for his pal Cimarusti and several other foodies on a "Sea to Plate" fishing trip hosted by Edible Los Angeles. It went over "phenomenally well" and he joked about starting a grilled cheese truck. Four days later, he had potential investors.
"I had my day in the sun and I had my write-ups, but I never wanted that when I started cooking," Danhi says. "I love making people happy with food, and this is the perfect venue to do that."
-- Elina Shatkin
Photo: A grilled cheese sandwich made with manchego cheese at Allston Yacht Club. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times